• crepitation •
Pronunciation: kre-pê-tay-shên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass
Meaning: 1. Crackling sound. 2. Rattling sound, such as the sound made by the crepitaculum of a rattlesnake.
Notes: In the medical world, crepitation is called crepitus and a rattlesnake rattle is known as a crepitaculum (plural crepitacula). Today's Good Word is actually based on the verb crepitate "to crackle", which also has an adjective, crepitant, except, again, in medicine, where the adjective is crepitous.
In Play: Crepitation is all around us: "The crepitation of the campfire grew and blended with the softer crepitation of the wind playing with the autumn leaves." We even have occasion to use it in bad weather: "Martha didn't have to look out the window to check the weather; she could hear the crepitation of the rain on the window panes."
Word History: This English word was based on crepitatus, the past participle of the Latin verb crepitare "to creak, crackle". This verb is the frequentative of crepare "to crack, creak", created by Latin from the PIE root ker-/kor- "to cry hoarsely", source also of Latin corvus "raven", Greek korax "raven" and korone "crow", Lithuanian krauklys "raven", Dutch kraai "crow", German Krähe "crow", and English crow. It also underlies crane and German Kran "crane". It sometime appears with metathesis (the vowel and R trade places), sometimes without. (We now thank Robert Jordan for recommending today's absolutely fascinating Good Word.)